Game Reviews

Guitar Rock Tour (iPhone)

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Guitar Rock Tour (iPhone)

Mobile publisher Gameloft has done some wonderful things in its time, but by God, it's pushing its luck trying to resuscitate the career of The Scorpions.

You heard us. Gameloft might have chosen the admittedly ace 'Rock You Like A Hurricane' for inclusion in Guitar Rock Tour, but do we really want to encourage it? It's a slippery slope that leads towards a re-release for the horrific 'Wind of Change'. And nobody wants that.

Still, we'll forgive it, because there are plenty more tracks in Guitar Rock Tour, funneling royalties in the direction of bands who won't spunk them all on headbands and whistling lessons. As you may have guessed, Guitar Rock Tour is a music game that bears just a slight resemblance (i.e. an enormous one) to Guitar Hero. Activision, which publishes that game on DS, must be spitting about being beaten to iPhone by a clone. Not least because it's a good one.

So, Guitar Rock Tour sees you playing a virtual guitar to 17 songs by tapping the screen as coloured notes fall to the bottom of the four frets. Get your timing right, and you rack up the points and applause, but hit a few bum notes, and you risk being kicked off-stage.

The twist is that you can also choose to play drums – a feature nabbed from console counterparts Rock Band and Guitar Hero: World Tour. There are three difficulty levels and for depth there's a Tour mode where you work your way up the rawk ranks, unlocking new songs as you go.

There are a lot of things right with Guitar Rock Tour. It looks marvellous, with impressive 3D visuals in the background – the only shame being that your attention is entirely focused on the foreground, so you don't get to admire them much.

The core action is very addictive, too, as you tap away at the screen, sliding your finger when hitting two notes at once. Power note sequences up the ante by encouraging you to fill a power meter at the side of the screen, which can be triggered to bump up your score. It's truly got the 'just one more go' factor that dignifies all great mobile games, in short.

There are also some great little touches, such as the awards that you win for completing specific goals, and the way you can rotate your iPhone 180 degrees to play upside down, to keep your fingers away from the speaker – of course, headphones is the best bet.

On the subject of audio, Guitar Rock Tour sounds good, with proper MP3-quality music. Besides The Scorpions, you get tracks like 'Heart Shaped Box' (Nirvana), 'Smoke on the Water' (Deep Purple), 'Walk Idiot Walk' (The Hives), 'Message in a Bottle' (The Police) and 'Banquet' (Bloc Party). Oh, and a dodgy nu-metal version of Michael Jackson's 'Beat It'

The only problem if you're a stickler for authenticity is that the songs appear to be cover versions rather than the original recordings. With master recordings now a staple of music games, this is a disappointment.

Guitar Rock Tour did have some serious crashing issues in its first release, but that appears to have improved in the just-released update (the version reviewed here).

We'd like to see some connected features – online rankings at least, or even some kind of asynchronous multiplayer battle mode. Free rival Tap Tap Revenge has been exploring connectivity, and there's clearly scope for Guitar Rock Tour to do the same. Downloadable songs would also be ace, although that's something that's out of Gameloft's hands, since Apple doesn't allow it.

Even so, taken on its merits as a highly polished, virulently addictive music game, Guitar Rock Tour sets the bar high for Guitar Hero and Rock Band if they ever make it to iPhone. Whether you're a fan of The Scorpions or have a working pair of ears, this game rocks hard. No headband required.

Guitar Rock Tour (iPhone)

Excellent rhythm-action game for all aspiring guitar heroes